Learning to give gifts is an important part of the holidays. It is a skill that requires perspective taking AND executive function (planning). When I ask students what they think someone they know might want as a gift, invariably the response is what THAT student wants. Rarely are the preferences and interests of others considered.
Focusing on the skill of gift-giving is always functional, but this time of year lends itself perfectly to the process. Here are some tips and activities that I’ve found clinically useful:
1. I like to have the child focus on one person to consider buying a gift for (Mom, Dad, etc). In our groups the children are paired with another child that they do not know very well.
2. We then generate interview-type questions to find out the other person’s interests and hobbies. (One rule: don’t ask “what gift do you want”!)
3. After we gather information about the person, each student is encouraged to make “smart guesses” about what the person might like. This is a great time to discuss budget as many kids will want to buy expensive gifts that are unreasonable. When buying gifts for other children in the group, I usually encourage trips to the “dollar store” and limit prices to $5.00.
4. We then role-play gift giving scenarios. For example, receiving a gift you do not like vs. receiving one you do like. I like to talk about what each person might be thinking and how they feel in each scenario.
5. If possible, have the children shop with a parent or make a session out of a trip to a local store. I like to wrap the presents together and have a gift-giving party.